By Millicent Zighe
The United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support Oscar Fernandez-Taranco has expressed concerns over rampant human rights violations in Burundi.
Speaking during a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) briefing on Burundi, Taranco said the situation in the country is still volatile, with many reported cases of violations of fundamental, civic and political freedom.
His sentiments were echoed by the representative of the United Kingdom who lamented that the situation in Burundi portends a real risk of violence, human rights violations and an escalation of the humanitarian crisis.
Taranco also encouraged donors to contribute more to the $296 million Humanitarian Response Plan for Burundi which is presently underfunded. In addition to that, he urged Burundi government to support United Nations cause towards providing assistance to those in need.
Burundi sunk into a low-grade conflict after President Pierre Nkurunzinza was controversially elected for a third term in April 2015 seen by many in the country as a breach of the constitution. Since then, an estimated 400,000 have fled the country into the neighboring Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda and DRC Congo.
African Union Commissioner for Peace and security Smail Chergui expressed his disappointment over the failure of Burundi to implement the Arusha Agreement. The peace treaty which ended Burundi civil war was mediated by former Tanzania President Julius Nyerere in 2000.
Chergui also raised concern over preparations of the upcoming 2020 elections saying the country should strive to hold free and fair elections.
Burundi elections have been a subject of concern ever since reports of intimidation against members of opposition party came to light. A climate of fear has already engulfed the country as people wait for next year’s poll. Further, human rights groups have expressed concern over the increasing risk of election violence as more people join armed opposition groups.
Nonetheless, Chairperson of Burundi Configuration of Peace Building Commission, Jurg Lauber, told the UNSC that Burundi authorities have confirmed that the security situation in the country is calm and stable. In addition to that Lauber said the country will fund its own elections without the assistance of foreign donors. However, this has been a subject of controversy owing to the fact that dreaded youth militia group – Imbonerakure – has been using excessive force on people while soliciting for funds for the 2020 elections. Dozens have since been tortured in the process forcing human rights groups to intervene.
Burundi’s crackdown on civil rights organization group was also brought up by Lauber who expressed his concerns over the closure of the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Bujumbura in February this year.
Just few weeks ago, the government of Burundi made headlines for suspending the last remaining civil society organization – PARCEM – accusing it of disturbing peace and tarnishing the reputation of the country.
In spite of that, Lauber told the UNSC that Minister for Human Rights, Social Affairs and Gender Martin Nivyabandi has expressed the country’s willingness to engage with international human rights bodies in implementation of the United Nations Human Rights Council recommendations.
Burundi representatives to UNSC were quick to deny human right violations claiming the country is stable hence it is not posing any threat to international peace.
They urged the UN to focus on economic development of their country instead of treating Burundians condescendingly.
Their sentiments were backed by an Equatorial Guinea representative who told the Security Council that Burundi is on its way to recovery.
South African representative Jerry Matila promised to support Burundi in its operations further urging international bodies to stop interfering with African problems saying regional organizations will find a solution to the tiny East African nation problems.
“Allowing for the regional processes to unfold is a key factor in Africa owning solutions of its own problems and enduring peace,” Matila told UNSC.